A beautiful place. Well protected from development and fishing by the park laws and boundaries. And great for cruising in a natural environment. Plenty of places to anchor and excellent moorings. We were here a few years back while cruising on Chasseur and looked forward to our return on Privateer. Coming up from the south, our first stop was the Cambridge Cay mooring field. The entrance from the south is a bit skinny, the charts showing some 5′ spots, and we draw almost 5. There are enough Active Captain descriptions that attest to at least 5′ at low, assuming you stay in the so-called channel.
For those of you hesitant to lock on to the “magenta line” while in the ICW, this is different. The Explorer Chart route needs to be followed exactly. Especially if you draw 5′ and are coming in at low tide. Unlike the ICW, you can see the bottom clearly. Way too clearly. And even if you are very experienced at reading depth in the Bahamas, I defy you to differentiate between 5′ (enough) and 4.5′ (not enough). All I can do to add to the knowledge base, is that if you follow the Explorer route you will have at least 5′ at low. But not much more. And the channel gets down to about 30′ wide at one point. But by the time you get this far, the channel is easy to read.
Once in, the area is mostly covered with mooring balls, but room to anchor if you choose. We took a ball. A quick note on the balls in the park. Very well maintained, very strong (more on that later). Most rated for 60′, some for 100′. That said, some get chewed up by the props of the incompetents, so we always dive on them.
Cambridge Cay anchorage is a spectacularly beautiful spot. Looking north or south you can see up and down the island chain. Looking east, over a large coral shoal, is the bank forever. for one of our three days here we were the only boat in the anchorage. If you are looking for quiet, this is the place to go. And not too far north is the snorkeling spot called the sea aquarium. Dinghy moorings and lots of fish. Not to be missed.
Plenty of room at the Monument Beach anchorage in Georgetown. Before Christmas, that is.
Mart and Sue from Alizan, another Krogen, stop by
There are as many routes to the Bahamas as there are blogs about them. Some better than others. Here is ours.
Our general starting point was Ft Lauderdale, post boat show, and our general initial destination was Georgetown in the Exumas. We chose to take the ICW down to Miami, stage out of the Venetian Causeway/islands area, and exit Government cut for Bimini as a day hop. We left at first light and dropped anchor that afternoon off the new resort on the NW coast of Bimini. Easy trip, decent anchorage in moderate prevailing easterlies. Next day we left at first light again and crossed the banks to anchor at Bird island. Night three we passed New Providence island to port, entered the banks just north of the reef and cut over to Shroud for the night. Weather was great, seas were flat and we never saw less than 10 feet depth. From there it was a night at Staniel, a night at Great Guana, a hop outside at Galliot and back in at Stocking and we were there. We cleared customs in Georgetown. (shhh!)
To be completely legal we should have cleared in at Bimini. but that would have entailed waiting till the next day and either staying over another day in Bimini, or getting to Bird isl. or some place nearby, after dark. This was our first time to Bimini and after a stop in Bimini on our return i can now add a few notes. First, I would not want to take the big boat into Alice Town unless it was slack tide. The current flies through there. That said, there are a few face docks at some of the marinas and the docks at the Bimini Big Game Club are new. And you can clear in there. I would anchor out and come in by dinghy. Stick around at the bar for shark feeding frenzy in the evening.
The other alternative is to take a slip at Bimini Sands on South Bimini. Stay a day or two. Nice pool. Totally protected although it can get a bit surgey at times. Short walk and short ferry ride to Alice Town to check in.
Or you can just wait to clear in when you get to Georgetown. I cant come up with any interpretation of Bahama entry instructions that would make that legal, but that said, the instructions are a bit vague, “…at the closest customs facility…” and “within 24 hours” shows up, along with, “upon entering Bahamian waters”. Probably within the law to sail directly to Georgetown as long as you dont anchor like we did. We did fly the Q flag and my response if boarded would have been that this was our landfall from the crossing. Again, I am not recommending any of this.
Alternatively, on a previous visit to the Bahamas we made landfall at Mayaguana, coming up from T & C, but anchored a long distance from the town. I called the customs agent in Mayaguana and asked if it would be OK to wait till we got to Georgetown to check in and she said, “No problem, mon” But I doubt she was speaking officially.
Anyway, we got here just fine.
Before Christmas, the Georgetown anchorages are pretty open. We like Monument and Honeymoon Beach anchorages. Excellent holding throughout. But they get pretty crowded as the season progresses. Later in the season we end up in Sand Dollar, although holding is variable here. There are some pretty weedy areas and some areas with a thin layer of sand over coral crust, as well as some long dead coral atols that can wrap an anchor chain. Since we were in and out of the Georgetown area this season, we tried them all.
The harbor has a good mix of transient cruisers and live aboards. Boats that either stop for a few days headed south, come here and stay all season, or stay all year and just get moved out from the hurricane hole storage and back every season. The greenery from their hulls is beginning to attach to the sea bed.
Sorry for the lack of updates (written Jan 2017)
Feels like mission accomplished. More than six months ago, long before the boat was even completed, we planned a family reunion in the Bahamas for Christmas. And we are here. Evan from Georgia, Grayson from Tallahassee, and their girl friends. It has been a whirlwind six months. Some time soon i will go back and expand on some of all this, but for now, and overview of how we got from here to there.
Commissioning in Stuart with KKY went well, but it is an intense period, with lots of decisions to be made on the fly. With our plan to go straight from the commissioning to the Ft lauderdale boat show and then to the Bahamas, we not only had to learn the boat, but we had to prepare it for living aboard full time and for moving it to a somewhat remote part of the world.(just try and get a part delivered to the bahamas and you will see what i mean)
Lets start with handling a trawler of this size. Should be easy, what with twin engines and bow and stern thrusters. And I guess it is. But still a significant learning curve as I move from a 54ft sailboat. The big issue is visibility. From the center cockpit of the sailboat I had 360 degree visibility. From any steering station on Privateer, and there are 4, i have maybe 120 degrees field of view and am blind in the other quadrants. Yes, there is 360 from the fly bridge, but the edges of the boat are not visible. backing this thing into a slip requires a different perspective that I have not yet mastered. It isnt the boat, as I couldnt imagine any trawler of this size better configured or equipped for close quarters maneuvering, but it is still a steep learning curve. Now that we are moving from anchorage to anchorage, life is much easier. Back to our chronology.
From Stuart to Ft Lauderdale there must be about 30 bridges that we need opened.That is a learning opportunity all its own. I am pretty good at calculating time and distance to arrive at the next bridge just before a scheduled opening, and many of the bridge openings are sequenced for 7 knots or so. But just as I think I had a plan, we would run into an “idle speed only” or “no wake zone” that forced us back to 5 knots or so. After a couple of miles at 5 knots, it would require 10 knots to get back on plan. And we cant do 10 knots. As it turned out, we were often able to catch up with “the fleet” and ride the tail of the convoy through the bridge. But we did miss a few.
Boat shows can be fun, but getting the boat into the show is not for the faint of heart. Think of a tight anchorage with 50 boats in it. Then take the anchors away. Have them all moving in random directions to maintain steerage. Add 3 knots of current and 25 knots of wind. That pretty much describes the marshaling area just outside the show marina. We had our broker on board. A life saver.
No trip to Ft Lauderdale is complete without a trip up and down the New River. Never again. Take those same 50 boats, string them out bow to stern, add a narrow winding river, seven bridges in half as many miles, throw in some current just to make it interesting, and then stop for twenty minutes to let a train go by.
Miami was OK. We anchored east of the Venetian causeway among the man made islands. An excellent place to sit and wait for weather for the crossing over to, in our case, Bimini. Easy exit w no bridges to deal with.
I will pick up next with the stream crossing (benign) and our short passage to George Town. (also mostly benign)
Progress. Privateer is out of the shed and being prepped for shipment. Load date is approximately 22 July. Her ride is the Ever Lawful, a container ship, and she is due in Savannah about 27 August. Looks like we will be out of NH and down south in time for me to join the delivery captain on the trip from Savannah to Stuart. I have attached a few photos but they do not do her justice as plenty of pre-ship packaging everywhere.
I was like a kid in a candy shop when I first sat down with Martek, the KK suggested electronics supplier. I had spent a day at a boat show recently and was overwhelmed by the capabilities of the latest systems. But this is from a guy who spent three years cruising Maine on my sailboat with just a hand held GPS, so i was easily impressed.
These guys a partial to Furuno and my experience with Furuno was pretty good. Maybe not the most intuitive interface, but bulletproof was my sense. My last boat was decently equipped but a mix of whatever fit at the chart table and would plug in without too much trouble to my dedicated black box pc. I used to think a federated system of mostly stand alone gear, wired up as needed to a pc was they way to go. Had heard too many stories about a single fault bringing down the entire nav system so wanted the ability to run most everything by itself if required. But I spent way too much time dealing with pc and Microsoft issues; COM ports being stolen, cursors running wild, blue screens of death and so on. So for this boat, my first new boat by a long shot, I am going integrated. And that pretty much says Furuno, Raymarine, Garmin or maybe, but not quite yet, Simrad. I dropped Raymarine for no better reason than they used to have a bad reputation for reliability. Likely because they pretty much were at the forefront of integrated nav systems and paved the way for the rest. But old memories die hard, especially with old sailors. I could have gone with ether Garmin or Furuno, but Martek liked Furuno, and as I said before, what do I know?
So the heart of my pilot house nav system will be dual NavNet TZTouch2 black boxes driving side by side Green Marine touch screens, one 19″ and one 24″ with a third TV screen for the cameras. Furuno 60mi radar, Furuno autopilot, GPS, fish finder, AIS transceiver, weather station, ICOM VHF etc. Software is Nobletec Trident.
After running an equivalent Garmin system on a friend’s boat, I did notice the graphics were a little slow to redraw, which is not the case with the Trident time zero (at least in the demo) so that will be impressive. Other than that, and Furuno’s somewhat more straightforward approach to buying charts, not sure there is much difference between the systems. But at this point I am sure it will be a “love the one you are with” sort of relationship once I get used to the interface.
I did pass on the SSB this time. Partly because we wont be spending so much time offshore on this boat, partly because of the cost and partly because I was tired of all the time spent trying to tune in a station and then wait for a Pactor handshake, just to download at 300 bps. All to save the $.30 it would have cost to download the same GRIB file on the Iridium Go sitting next to me. I figure I can download one heck of a lot of GRIB files for the cost of one SSB. I will miss the chat networks however.
Still months away from my first sight of her, so will keep you posted.